My dear Jil,
I met an extraordinary man named Richard Lef last week. Now you may think me a fabulist but Richard is over 300 years old! (Maybe, maybe not!)
Richard was an ordinary man, just like the rest of us. He woke, he bathed, he dressed, drove to work, did his work, ate his lunch, closed from work, drove back home. Richard had a wonderful marriage. His wife was beautiful, tender hearted, loving, kind and devoted. To be honest, she was too beautiful for him. And those who met them could never imagine Richard snatching such a prize. But she saw in Richard the things that matter. She saw beyond his social clumsiness, his self effacement. She saw nobility, constancy and character. Those items she concluded are not always in abundant supply.
Perhaps the constancy came from working in the lab. Richard was (is) a scientist. His line of work requires routinisation of plebeian chores. You can’t do it without constancy. Everything was going well for Richard – loving wife, beautiful home, wonderful children… Until one fateful day when Richard’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. Richard’s world imploded inside him, but it held up by the scaffold of his scientific quality – constancy.
Richard approached the problem in the way he knew best – as a scientist. Not that he didn’t pray. God knows he did! He went into the lab, refocused his research and began to look for a cure for breast cancer. And that was when Richard began experimenting with rats, or shall we say mice. “Rats” has a nasty ring to it. He radically aged mice in the lab, programming them to die in twenty-one days. He then injected them with things to prolong their lives and recorded his observations.
One fateful day Richard injected a group of mice with stem cells four days to the end of their life span. The mice miraculously lived to seventy-two days! That is the equivalence of an eighty-year old man living to two hundred years. Richard was unto something and he knew it. He had a gateway to prolonging his wife’s life. But he also knew it would take years for government to approve the experiment on humans. He couldn’t wait! It is not uncommon for scientists to try things on themselves. Newton famously jammed a darning needle around the side of his eyeball. He wanted to understand the nature of light. And so Richard injected himself with stem cells of a provenance I know nothing about, in quantities I know nothing about. No, he did not turn into a green lizard. You’ve been watching too much Spiderman! And no, he didn’t turn into Hulk either. (Why are they always green?!) All I can say is that somehow the young cells overthrew Richard’s cells in a biological coup. They took over his body. Richard’s constitution changed.
At first he felt discomfort. But he could not share his discomfort. Not with his colleagues – for obvious reasons. And not with his wife. She was extremely weak at this time. He couldn’t tell his children either. Daddy has gone mad will be the refrain. And so Richard kept his secret to himself.
As the days came by and moved on, Richard’s constitution became stubborn. Richard refused to age. Unfortunately, his experiment came too late for his wife. She died. And Richard died inside though now immortal. His colleagues at the lab grew old, retired and died. Not Richard! He waxed stronger. His memory was sharp. Richard didn’t need to struggle with old age. He went mountain climbing at the age of seventy-six, did bungee jumping at eighty-two and skydived at ninety. He soon found himself alone though. The more he read the obituary columns of newspapers the more alone he felt. All his friends were going on long journeys, never to return. Richard was now the only one left of his generation. And he soon outlived his children, and then his grandchildren. And that was how Richard became the man who had seen it all!
He discovered that life is a cycle. What was, is. What is, was! Richard became a sage. When I asked for tips I could share with my tweeps on marriage, he had this to say: “What we’re in the habit of doing we soon carry over into marriage. Unchecked, bad habits are potential destroyers of matrimony.” And he cited case studies. He knew the outcome of human behavior. He could plot trajectories of lives and arrive at uncanny answers.
I further asked him what he missed the most about mortality. He looked at me with sad eyes and told me he wished he had died with his wife. He wishes he can die and go and meet her. “She was my soul mate, my comfort, my confidante. We were one. She loved me in a way no one ever could.”
Jil, I’ve heard of love like this before. Reminds me of Johny Cash. Johny Cash couldn’t survive June Carter Cash. He left barely four months after her, to go and be with her. When my friend’s mother died, she told me her father just sat there, alone with her… No one knew till the next evening. He didn’t know what to do with himself, or with her. He just sat there talking to her, looking at her. He had bought everything they owned in her name believing he would depart first. He trusted her absolutely. Make your husband trust you and keep that trust.
I know another old man whose wife died in an accident. Till today he takes flowers to her grave, celebrates her birthday. Some bonds are so powerful even death struggles to break them. Humans stand no chance. Unity. Oneness. Acceptance and understanding are common to such relationships. The couple care for each other, WANT the relationship. They’re usually the best of friends, accepting of each other’s inadequacies and imperfections. Friendship, commitment, love, fidelity, acceptance, understanding, unity, appreciation, celebration…
I left Richard that evening wondering about a lot of things. You should wonder too! What memories will your husband have if (God forbid) you pass away?
Your mentor, LA
©Leke Alder 2013